Pascrell’s bill, The Affordable Tutoring for Our Children Act, would allow families to use their dependent-care flexible-spending accounts to pay for services like those provided by Sylvan and competitors Huntington Learning Center and Kumon North America just the way they have used them to pay for after-school child care.
While wealthy families have little trouble paying for tutoring and there is financial assistance for low-income families, middle-class households have had to foot the entire bill themselves. If Pascrell’s measure becomes law, families earning less than $110,000 could use the pre-tax dollars in their FSAs, saving about $250 for every $1,000 in tutoring costs paid. The money could be used for both regular coursework tutoring and college test prep classes, but only at a state-certified institution. The tutoring expenses would, however, be subject to a combined $5,000 cap with dependent care expenses, a potential disadvantage to families already using their accounts to pay for child care.
“At some point, almost every child needs extra help in academics,” said Pascrell, who taught high school for 12 years before his Congressional career. “But middle-class families can’t afford it, and they can’t qualify for help.”
Verona parent Andrew D’Addio, whose children A.J. and Jordan have been Sylvan students, spoke in favor of the measure. “This is a common cause that everybody can get behind”, he said. “We were able to use our FSA for dependent care when the kids were little and it would be nice to take advantage of it now for their education.”
Pascrell seemed optimistic about the bill’s chances of being enacted, since it is revenue-neutral and already has bipartisan support. He also held out hope that, down the road, there could be similar assistance to self-employed families and those without workplace FSAs. “There is no more important investment,” said Pascrell, “than in our kids.”